PCOS Symptoms and Health Risks
In our clinic, most often we diagnose a woman with PCOS because her menstrual cycles are irregular and she is having trouble getting pregnant, which is a symptom of polycystic ovary syndrome.
However, not all women with polycystic ovary syndrome experience the same symptoms.
PCOS Symptoms Include
- Infertility due to lack of, or irregular, ovulation
- Irregular, absent, infrequent or heavy menstruation
- Adult acne
- Excess facial and body hair (called hirsutism)
- Male pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia)
- Dark skin patches (acanthosis nigricans) and skin tags
- Weight gain and obesity.
These symptoms can often lead to anxiety and depression. Women experiencing any number of these symptoms should see their OB/GYN for further evaluation. If fertility is specifically a concern, a fertility specialist (called a reproductive endocrinologist) is recommended.
Because a hormonal disorder can affect the whole body, symptoms can affect different aspects of a woman’s health. These include menstruation irregularity or lack of menstruation, dermatologic conditions, metabolism health, and other functions.
For example, infrequent or lack of menstruation disrupts a regular menstrual bleed, causing the lining of the uterus to become thick. This ultimately could lead to the development of pre-cancerous cells or uterine cancer.
The overproduction of androgens during PCOS may also be linked to a decreased efficiency of insulin hormone regulation. Insulin is a vital hormone that converts sugars and other foods into energy. The dysfunctional regulation of insulin in some women with polycystic ovary syndrome may also play a role in their difficulties with ovulation. It is also likely why women with PCOS appear to have a higher risk of developing diabetes.
Metabolic syndrome is also associated with polycystic ovary syndrome. It results in a variety of conditions, from high blood pressure and cholesterol to insulin resistance and diabetes. All of these conditions can increase a woman’s risk of heart disease.